Millennial Paper Usage and Attitudes: A Few Things You Might Want To Know





Oh Millennials, the first group to grow up right smack in the middle of the internet. It is easy to see the smartphone-wielding masses in the streets (sometimes completely unaware of their surroundings) and assume that they would gladly give up all worldly paper in exchange for a minute of screen time. However, as some of your paper-based assumptions about Millennials may be right on track, some of the findings from TRU’s Millennial Paper Usage and Attitudes study may surprise you.

Based on data gathered from 600 young U.S. adults aged 16-26, TRU found that, as you’d expect, 92% had a social media profile and send and receive, on average, 92 texts and 24 emails per day. 79% said that they use electronic bank statements, and the clear majority perceived digital forms as “more environmentally friendly (92%),” “more up-to-date (91%),” and “easier to keep track of (76%).” And these certainly have their basis in fact.


However, with this in mind, only a meager 31% said that they strove to be paperless and 78% stated that they “can’t imagine their life without paper.”


So what does this mean? Well, the clear majority of Millennials don’t intend for paper to leave their life. This need is based largely in emotion, with a big emphasis on trust. They trust the information in printed material to be less susceptible to tampering, and more easy on their eyes. They resonate more with invitations and cards on paper over e-vites. And while they are comfortable with the digital world, so too are they in the world of print.

As you would expect, the perception of environmental impact is among the top reasons as to why paper is lagging with this group, along with other technological and social factors. As it rests, paper has certainly been overcome by the sweep of digital on many fronts. But on those it hasn’t, the ones that target the emotion, that’s where print’s foundation remains. If you want Millennials to connect with your message, then print is your answer. Paper isn’t going away, and if you want more proof, see below for more figures from the survey.


  • Millennials paper use:  Respondents report an average use of 65 sheets of paper per week, with 26 for printing and 15 for writing. They send and receive 4 pieces of paper mail a day.


  • Unsurprisingly, paper consumption increases with age, employment: 16-18 years olds self-report using an average of 41 pieces of paper a week, 19-22 year olds use 57 pieces of paper and 23-26 year old millennials say they use 97 pieces a week.  Employed millennials report higher paper use than non-employed.


  • Millennial attitudes regarding environmental impact in terms of waste and litter:
    • Very concerned about paper consumption’s impact on the environment (65%); 59% are very concerned about technology’s impact on the environment
    • Making an effort to reduce paper consumption (67%)
    • 55% say paper consumption is NOT harmful to the environment if you recycle
    • Strive to be paperless (31%).
  • They expect paper companies to make similar reduction efforts and to promote recycling.
    • Half (50%) believe that paper companies are doing a good job of preserving resources
    • Eight out of 10 (83%) say that paper companies need to do more.
  • Paper equals trust.  Compared to digital documents, it is seen as more official (88%), more trusted (82%), easier to keep confidential (78%), and safer/more secure (74%).  In addition:
    • 77% say documents are less trustworthy in digital format since they can be altered without your knowledge
    • 90% prefer to have hard copies of important documents
    • 63% often print out documents for their records, even if they have them saved electronically.


  • Millennials’ thought on paper and the eyes:  65% say, “It is easier for me to view or read something on paper that to read it on a computer screen or dome other tech device.”


  • Preference for paper over digital:  Books (78%), magazines (71%) and newspapers (52%).


  • If forced to choose the majority would rather receive:  a birthday card in the mail than via email (87%), a mailed invitation than an evite (57%), and a handwritten letter than an email (55%).



“Despite preconceptions of the new digital age youth — labeled ‘millennials’ — many are deeply connected through social media websites, text messaging and email, yet also prefer paper for basic personal and business communications. Paper consumption among this group of teens and young adults increases with age and employment.”

Source:  TRU, Millennial Paper Usage and Attitudes, presented at Paper2011 sponsored by the American Forest & Paper Assn and the National Paper Trade Alliance, March 2011.


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